Portland circus college launches recreational classes

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PORTLAND — The circus has finally come to town.

The Circus Conservatory of America, which is scheduled to launch the first-ever accredited circus college in the United States in the fall, opened for recreational classes Monday at Thompson’s Point.

More than a dozen classes are being offered, both for youth and adults, generally running from through late April. Costs depend on the class, from a suggested $5 donation for a juggling group to $475-$1,200 for more intensive training.

According to Colin Boyd, director of marketing and communications for CCA, prior to Jan. 12 the recreational programs had been training in other facilities on Thompson’s Point, which he called “pretty Spartan.” He said everyone is excited to step into the new space.

To kick off the new beginning, CCA hosted about 25 students from Casco Bay High School last week in the still-unfinished main building at Thompson’s Point, which CCA President Peter Nielsen referred to as “the West Wing.”

General Manager Blaine Tully, who will be managing the recreational classes as well as the facility, said CCA was contacted by CBHS to “supplement the intensive work” the students were doing. He said those students had primarily been training at Breakwater School in Portland, but CCA would give the students “another vision of what circus is.”

The large, brick building that was originally used for railroad car repairs, still needs a lot of work and “finishing touches” according to Tully. Nielsen said it will never actually be complete.

“We’ll always be adding,” he said, with “an intentionally flexible environment for unanticipated uses.”

Nielsen said a cafe in the main building will open in April and will overlook the athletic space. He said there will be a lot of afternoon programs for middle and high school students, adult and corporate team-building events, and space for traveling artists.

“(This building) is a microcosm of everything the Circus Conservatory will become in Portland,” Nielsen said.

Stuart Richie, a Cirque du Soleil stage manager who lives in Portland, joined the CBHS students as “a witness” to the event.

“A Circus Conservatory for America is revolutionary,” Richie said, adding that Portland can provide circus students, who previously had to leave the country to study, with what they need.

“I’m excited to see what they’ll bring to Portland and the country,” Richie said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

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Josh Oliver of the Circus Conservatory of America performs a solo aerial act for a group of 25 students from Portland’s Casco Bay High School.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.